Download a PDF - Stage Directions Magazine

Download a PDF - Stage Directions Magazine

• Guiding Your Play Through


A P R I L 2 0 1 0

Colin Mochrie and

Brad Sherwood talk

about the risks

and rewards of not

thinking things


Tony Kushner talks about the contentious nature of theatre,

and the continual, thrilling reinvention of his works.

A P R I L 2 0 1 0

Table Of Contents A P R I L 2 0 1 0




8 Light on the Subject

Customizing your Vectorworks

workspace. By David K H Elliott

10 Bend Me Shape Me

This audio crew proves that the performers

aren’t the only ones contorting

each night at a Cirque show. By Jacob


12 Broadway’s #1

Backup Plan

Merwin Foard keeps going on Broadway

by making sure the Broadway show

goes on. By Bryan Reesman

Special Section:

Plays and Playwriting

16 Fast Scenes, Slow


A profile of Tony Kushner, one of the

preeminent playwrights of our times

thanks to his works that chart the slow,

contentious, progressive growth of the

human heart. By Katherine Brodsky

20 The Ultimate Play

Publication Primer

A step-by-step guide to successfully

seeing your work in print.

By Lisa Mulcahy

23 Plays & Musicals


A directory of play and musical

publishers guaranteed to have just

the right show you’re looking for.


4 Correction

In the article “Mind Over Fiscal Matters”

by Dave McGinnis in the March issue of

Stage Directions, there were some inaccuracies

that we would like to

correct immediately.

Colin Mochrie and

Brad Sherwood talk

about the risks

and rewards of not

thinking things


• Guiding Your Play Through


5 In the Greenroom

Labor struggles at the Shaw Fest,

AEA Inks new deal with Off-B’way

League, and more.

7 Tools of the Trade

New gear for the technophile in all of us.

28 Answer Box

Nick Keenan uses sound to change the

physics of a space, or play.

By Jacob Coakley


24 Show Business

Leaning on others to help find the

good new work. By Tim Cusack

25 Off the Shelf

Books that provide insight into making

theatre better. By Stephen Peithman

ON OUR COVER: Jamecia Bennett (The Washing Machine),

Aurelia Williams, Lynnea Doublette and Felicia Boswell (The

Radio) and Greta Oglesby (Caroline Thibodeaux) in the 2009

Guthrie Theater production of Tony Kushner’s Caroline, Or Change


Tony Kushner talks about the contentious nature of theatre,

and the continual, thrilling reinvention of his works.

Publisher Terry Lowe

Editor Jacob Coakley

Lighting & Staging Editor Richard Cadena

New York Editor Bryan Reesman

Editorial Assistant Victoria Laabs

Contributing Writers Katherine Brodsky, Tim Cusack,

David K H Elliott, Lisa Mulcahy,

Stephen Peithman, Bryan Reesman

Consulting Editor Stephen Peithman


Art Director Garret Petrov


Production Manager Linda Evans


Web Designer Josh Harris


Advertising Director Greg Gallardo

National Sales Manager Michael Devine

Audio Advertising Manager Jeff Donnenwerth

Sales Manager Matt Huber


General Manager William Vanyo


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Stage Directions (ISSN: 1047-1901) Volume 23, Number 4 Published monthly by Timeless Communications

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Powering Portable Dimmers in the Theatre

[We at Stage Directions made an error that we would like to

correct immediately. In the process we hope to open new portals

of discovery for the practicing theatre electrician or technician.

Richard Cadena, editor of PLSN magazine and an ETCP

Certified Entertainment Electrician and an ETCP Recognized

Trainer, explains more below. —Jacob Coakley, editor, Stage


In the article “Mind Over Fiscal Matters” by Dave McGinnis

in the March issue of Stage Directions, there were some

inaccuracies. The subject of concern centers on the

proper application of portable dimmers, supply capacity to

feed those dimmers, and overcurrent protection devices,

commonly known as circuit breakers.

In short, whenever dealing with powering portable

dimmers, follow these guidelines:

• Always read the specifications of any

equipment before applying power

• Never power a device using voltage other

than the rated voltage of a device

• Only qualified personnel should attempt

to configure power distribution equipment

A circuit breaker is designed to protect against an

overload or a short circuit. In North American theatres

we most often use a molded case single-pole circuit

breaker, meaning it switches only one wire, which is

the hot or the black wire in a 120V system.

The basic ratings of a circuit breaker include the

rated current and the rated voltage. (There are other

specs involved in sizing circuit breakers but they are

beyond the scope of this article.) The current rating

determines how many amps can safely pass through

the device before it trips off. For example, a 20-amp

circuit breaker can pass 20 amps continuously in free

air without tripping. (Because most North American

circuit breakers are thermal-magnetic devices, they

are typically de-rated 20% when they are installed in

a breaker panel because of the effects of heating from

adjacent circuits.)

The rated voltage should be at least as high as the

system voltage. For example, a 20-amp 250V circuit

breaker will operate just fine in a 208V circuit but it

should not be used in a 277V circuit. It will likely work

fine in a 277V circuit until there is an overload or a

short, and when the contacts open they could arc and

re-close the circuit, thereby defeating the purpose of

the device.

When you are powering a portable dimmer from a

branch circuit (meaning the circuit fed from a common

circuit breaker in the final leg of the power distribution),

then the rated voltage of the device should

match the voltage of the circuit. Typically a portable

dimmer pack will be a 120V device. Depending on the

type of connector the dimmer pack uses, it could be

a 15-amp, 20-amp, 30-amp, or more, device. If it has

an Edison plug (NEMA 5-15) then it should be a 15-A

device. If it has a 20-amp plug (NEMA 5-20) then it

will still work with an Edison T-slot receptacle (NEMA

5-20R) because it is a 20-amp circuit that works with

15A and 20A plugs. If the device needs more than 20

amps then it should have a connector that will not

plug into an Edison receptacle.

In a 120/208V four wire plus ground system (green,

white, black, red, and blue wires), the voltage across

any hot leg (black, red, or blue wire) to the white

neutral conductor is 120V and the voltage across any

two hot lets on different phases is 208V. A 208V circuit

uses a double-ganged circuit breaker with two poles

that feed from two hot legs on different phases. These

branch circuits are typically connected to a locking

receptacle such as a NEMA L6-15 or an L6-20. There are

a few different connectors that could be used for 208V

devices, so if the portable dimmer pack doesn’t have

an Edison connector, then be sure to check the specs

and match the voltage to the circuit correctly.

Portable dimmers that have two power cables are

using two distinct circuits to double their dimmer

capacity. For example, the Leprecon ULD-360 dimmer

has two NEMA 5-15 plugs. Each plug is capable of supplying

15A at 120V, which is 1800 watts. By using two

power cables, a single dimmer pack can supply 3600

watts. This is typically done so that you can use commonly

available Edison plugs and receptacles instead

of having to find larger capacity circuits and connectors

in a ballroom or venue.

There are virtually no circumstances in which we

would encounter or need more than 208V or 220V in

the theatre (save for special applications). In a 120/208V

four wire plus ground system it is impossible to connect

the wires in any way to derive 440 volts. If you have a

special application with very high power requirements,

then you might use 480V three-phase by tapping into

the building service, but that should never be attempted

by anyone except qualified personnel.

Working with power distribution is potentially

lethal and should not be taken lightly. If you build

distribution systems or interconnect distribution components

then you should understand the dangers and

how to mitigate them. Take classes devoted to power

distribution, study the latest technology and techniques,

and stay current with your knowledge. There

are many, many resources for doing so and there is no

reason to put yourself or anyone else in harm’s way.

Richard Cadena is the editor of PLSN magazine, the

author of “Electricity for the Entertainment Electrician

& Technician,” and an ETCP Certified Entertainment

Electrician and an ETCP Recognized Trainer. For training

opportunities in power distribution visit www.produc

4 April 2010 •

In the


theatre buzz

IATSE Local 461 Strikes After Shaw Festival Locks Out Employees

On March 10, the Shaw Festival

locked out employees in their Facilities

department who were represented

by IATSE in ongoing contract negotiations.

In response to the lockout the

rest of IATSE-represented employees,

including stagehands and technicians

as well as box office employees, went

on strike. While the two parties were

close to a contract, negotiations broke

down over language in the contract

regarding when the Shaw Fest could

replace the unionized workers with

others from an outside contracted


While the Shaw Fest maintains that

it was “committed” to fact that there

would be no layoffs during the length

of the contract, Local 461 President

Doug Ledingham criticized the Fest’s

“misleading” statements. According

to Ledingham “The actual offer was

to suspend any contracting out until

after Dec. 31, 2011, after which they

would again have the ability to replace

these employees at any point.”

Added Ledingham, “Local 461 will

not be bullied into accepting a contract

which allows the jobs of its members

to be auctioned off.”

In the 25-year association of Local

461 with the Shaw Festival, this is the

first time that there has been a strike

or lockout between the two.

Actors’ Equity Reaches

New Agreement With

Off-Broadway League

Actors’ Equity Association and

the Off-Broadway League, the trade

association that represents commercial

and non-profit Off-Broadway

theatres and productions, have

reached a new three-year agreement.

The new contract will extend

to November 4, 2012

Highlights of the agreement

include: Salary increases in the first

and third years of the agreement,

with retroactivity to November 9,

2009; An expanded ability to use

recorded material in new media

outlets; For the first time, replacement

auditions are required for

long running shows; Members of

the Off-Broadway League may now

produce shows in the Broadway

Box in Off-Broadway-sized houses

of 499 or less without paying a salary

premium; Actors who perform

in productions that fall under the D

and E categories in the Off Broadway

agreement may no longer leave for

more remunerative employment

and then return to the production.

Eight Professional Theatres

Announce Michigan Equity

Theatre Alliance

Michigan’s Equity theatre producers

have banded together to form the

Michigan Equity Theatre Alliance (META).

The theatres involved are: Detroit Repertory

Theatre (Detroit), The Jewish Ensemble

Theatre (West Bloomfield), Performance

Network Theatre (Ann Arbor), Plowshares

Theatre Company (Detroit), The Purple

Rose Theatre Company (Chelsea), Meadow

Brook Theatre (Rochester) Tipping Point

Theatre (Northville) and Williamston

Theatre (Williamston). META is meant to

be a permanent alliance that will foster

collaboration at all levels of operations,

from marketing and audience development

to collective bargaining to sharing


In a statement released to the press

the META org announced its goals as; to

strengthen and promote the image of

Michigan’s Equity theaters, while finding

ways to grow stronger through collaboration

and to pursue projects in each of four

strategic areas identified as critical for success.

These areas are: marketing, branding

and audience development; group vendor

and contract negotiation; research, best

practices and advocacy; space and facilities

sharing/organizational efficiency. • April 2010 5

theatre buzz

Debuts Interactive

Gear Reviews, a Stage Directions

Web site, has started a new feature to

give its members an even deeper look

at the backstage world, interactive product

reviews. Rather than simply report

on gear for its readers, members of the

Gear Review group on


gearreviews) can become a part of the

process of reviewing a piece of gear, to

make sure that it passes all their tests and

giving everyone a greater sense of what

the equipment can do.

“We always work to bring our members

closer to the info they need,” said

Jacob Coakley, editor of Stage Directions.

“The best way to do that is to let them tell

us what they want to know.”

Each piece of gear will be reviewed

for a month on, during

which time members can see pics

of the gear in action, learn the results

of in-depth, on-site testing, and request

tests of their own. After a month on the

site a summary of the results will be

printed in Stage Directions magazine. The

first piece of gear under the microscope

is Chavuet’s COLORado 1-Tri Tour LED


“This is a fantastic program,” said

Berenice Chauvet, vice-president of

Chauvet Lighting. “We love that it is interactive.

It allows us to not only get an

expert review of the product but also

direct, instant feedback from actual and

would-be users; and we can interact with

them on the spot.”

Users have already jumped in requesting

tests, and the review is underway.

Anyone wishing to participate can join at www.TheatreFace.

com/join and surf over to the Gear

Review group at


“This is the next logical step in giving

our readers and advertisers interactivity

between our print and e-media products,”

said Stage Directions Publisher Terry

Lowe. “This will allow our readers to be

part of the process, which should make

for better choices, and better theatre.”

More Greenroom News

Items on page 26

6 April 2010 •

Tools of the Trade

ETC Fire and Ice LED fixtures

ETC has introduced two new colorspectrum-specific

versions of its popular

Selador LED line: Fire and Ice. Fire features

a warm wash of saturated reds, oranges

and ambers. Ice provides a palette of brilliant

deep indigo, blue, cyan, green (and a

touch of red)—the gamut of blue washes

that designers seek for their light plots.

The Fire and Ice fixtures are designed

to equal or exceed the brightness performance of conventional

tungsten PAR fixtures and save dramatically on electricity. In

ETC testing for a typical color application, Fire and Ice fixtures

produced more light and consumed less than 70 watts of power

compared to their gelled tungsten counterparts at 575 watts.

Field Template ½” Striplight Placemat

Field Template has released their updated

½” Striplight Placemat, including templates

for the latest fixtures. Along with the

latest ETC Source 4 MultiPARs, it’s got all the

latest LED’s: Selador, Color Kinetics, and the

Altman Spectra-Cyc. The ½” Placemat also

has the latest standards; the Aurora, Econo-

Cyc, and Sky-Cyc, as well as PAR-56, PAR-38,

R40, and MR-16. There are section cutouts

for every fixture type, as well as three sets of circuitry symbols,

two-fer dots, and a scenery bumper.

Gerriets Absorber CS

Gerriets has expanded

its line of acoustic materials

to include a new soundabsorbing

textile, Absorber

CS. Absorber CS was created

in direct response to requests

from acoustic consultants

looking for the sound

absorption of wool serge in an inherently flame retardant, dimensionally

stable textile. Absorber CS is made from 100% Trevira CS

and meets the following flame retardant standards: DIN 4102 B1,

NFPA 701, California title 19, and City of New York. It is available in

standard black as well as custom colors in quantities of 200 m (220

yd) or more.

PocketLD V2.0

Zinman Software has

released PocketLD v2.0

in the iTunes App Store.

PocketLD allows lighting

professionals to calculate

the FC/LUX and Beam/Field

Diameters for over 2000 fixtures

and lamps. V2.0 adds

the functionality for users to edit the existing library, create

their own fixtures and organize these fixtures into an improved

Favorites List. New fixtures included in the library include

Dedolight, K5600 and Kobold. • April 2010 7

Light on the Subject


By David K H Elliott

Mod Your CAD

Customizing Your Vectorworks Workspace

Mod my CAD? Why? Can’t I just use it out of the box?

Doesn’t it come with everything I need?

Well, yes, for the most part. Out of the box, Spotlight

combines a powerful CAD program with some tools and resources

added to assist in creating professional theatrical light plots.

Using Spotlight as is, you can draft light plots to the best professional

standards and practices. So, why mod?

For power and efficiency. To add new capabilities. To improve

existing ones.

Spotlight is one of six Workspaces included with Vectorworks.

Each Workspace has a customized set of menus, commands and

tools for use in a particular industry. Nemetschek customized the

menus, commands and tools for each industry, making it easier

to use the program and, by being easier, making the user more


The idea behind modding your CAD is that even greater efficiency

can be gotten by customizing the menus, commands and

tools for your personal way of working. The stock Menus, Menu

Items and Palettes can all be altered. New menus, new menu

items and new palettes can be created for additional commands

or tools that you download, write or purchase to streamline your


This article will show you how to modify one of the stock

commands by adding a command key and then consolidate the

Spotlight commands into a specialized menu.


When you open VectorWorks for the first time, the screen can

be overwhelming. You’re presented with the screen full of data

as shown in Figure 1: the Obj Info, Navigation, Visualization, Tool

Sets, Basic, Untitled 1 windows; a couple of smaller, unnamed

windows with paint buckets, pens and shapes; and across the

top of the screen, a specialized menu bar. A couple of those windows,

Tool Sets and Basic, are full of tiny, unnamed icons. Lots of

icons. This is a workspace.

A workspace records which windows and palettes are open,

where they are on the screen, how the menu bar is laid out and

the list of items under each menu. A workspace also records

which tools appear in the floating palettes, what keyboard

shortcuts are assigned and what contextual menus are installed.

Any additions or changes that have been made are also recorded

here. Workspaces can be built from scratch, duplicated,

renamed, modified, saved and, with some caveats, transferred

to another machine.

In creating your own workspace, you can create or modify

menus and build tool palettes to customize the environment to

your particular way of working. You can equip it to support your

process and the types of projects you work on.

Vectorworks comes with a number of industry-specific stock

workspaces. Depending on the version of Vectorworks you buy,

the list might include: Designer, Landmark, Machine Design,

Spotlight and Standard. The available workspaces are listed

and selected under Tools > Workspaces. Try a couple of them

out. The menus across the top of the screen change with each

workspace. Click on the drop-down menus; they change as

well. Before you finish, select Spotlight, making it the active


Getting Personal

The first thing to do is create a personal workspace which can

then be modified without altering the stock workspaces. To do

that, open the Workspace Editor under the Tools > Workspaces


Figure 1: The Spotlight workspace

In the Workspace Editor Options window that opens, Figure

2, there are three radio buttons in the window: Edit the current

workspace; Edit a copy of the current workspace; Create a new


Select “Edit a copy of the current workspace.” In the now active

text box, give it a new name or accept the name it gives you,

“Spotlight copy.”

Clicking OK brings up the Workspace Editor, Figure 3. It has

three tabs and opens with the Menus tab selected, displaying a

column of commands and a column of menus. Clicking the disclosure

arrow in front of any of the command categories opens

a drop-down list of available commands. Similarly, the disclosure

arrows in front of the menus display a list of the items appearing

under that menu.

Add a Keyboard Shortcut to a Command

With a menu open in the Workspace Editor, you can

drag an item from a command category and position it

in a menu, move an existing command from one menu to

another or assign a key combination to activate a specific


The first mod we’ll make is to add a key combination to

the Save View... command under the File menu.

8 April 2010 •

The Save View

command takes

a snapshot of the

state of the layer

and class visibilities,

the active

zoom percentage

and the view in

your drawing. It

creates a macro Figure 2: The Workspace Editor Options

that returns you

to that same spot on the page restored with the settings

you made so that you can easily pick up where you left off.

To make this command more readily accessible, you can

assign a command key to it in the Workspace Editor.

Here are the steps to follow:

• In the Menus column, click the button next to View to

reveal a list of the menus and sub-menus beneath it.

• Scroll down and select Save View towards the bottom

of the View list.

• Below the Menu column are four possible key combinations

that could be assigned to the selected command.

They can be seen, slightly grayed, at the bottom of Figure

3. When a command is selected in the Menu list on the

right, one of them, Use Cmd+Key (Or “Ctrl+Key” on a PC),

is highlighted. Touching any key now will assign that key

and key combination to the Save View command. Use the

7 key for this, since it’s an open key in Spotlight.

Now, anytime you’d like to record a Saved View, a

simple key combination will open the dialog box, leaving

the mouse where you have it. The views that have

been saved can be accessed as one of the Script Palettes

under the Windows menu and double-clicked to invoke

or through a dropdown

menu in

the title bar of the

document you’re

working on. Having

a fast, easy way to

create Saved Views

makes them even

more useful.

A Specialized Menu

for Spotlight

The next mod

will make a custom Figure 3: The Workspace Editor.

menu that gathers all

the Spotlight commands under one menu to create a one-stop

drop-down for lighting. This allows lighting designers, assistants

and electricians to work with Spotlight’s lighting commands

without having to surf the other menus to do so. We’ll add a new

menu, which I’ve called SPLT, but leave the existing Spotlight

commands in place in the stock menus.

Here are your steps for this:

• Under Tools > Workspaces, re-open the Workspace

Editor. In the Workspace Editor Options window, select “Edit

a copy of the current workspace.” Rename it if you wish and

click OK. The Workspace Editor opens.

• Drag the New Menu item at the top of the Commands

column into the menus listed on the right and position it

Figure 4: The SPLT menu in Workspace Editor.

where you want it to appear. Visual clues will pop up as you

drag to guide you in placing it. Once it’s in place, select the

name and change it to SPLT or whatever you’d like.

• In the left column, open the Spotlight category. One

at a time, drag the items from the category list into the

new menu. Separator lines found under the New Menu

item can be dragged and

positioned where needed

for clarity. (An exception:

the Create Seating Layout

command is found in the

AEC category.) Figure 4

shows the SPLT menu as

built in the Editor.

• Click OK to leave the

editor and return to the

drawing. Figure 5 shows

the new SPLT menu and

the consolidated commands.

It is one possible

arrangement for the

Spotlight menu items;

you may prefer another

sequence. This version displays

all the items that pertain

directly to Spotlight.

At the same time, all the

Spotlight commands that

appear in the other menus

have been retained in place.

Figure 5: The SPLT menu.

Of course, there’s much more modding that can be done.

In the next installment, we’ll streamline a procedure by

recording a Custom Selection that replaces a multiple-step

process with a double-clickable macro and then, using the

VectorScript Editor, convert the macro to a Plug-in Object

and install it into a menu. It’ll be fun…

David K H Elliott is a lighting designer and educator. You can

reach him via e-mail at delliott@lightheaded. • April 2010 9

Sound Design


By Jacob Coakley

Bend Me Shape Me

The performers aren’t the only ones who contort each night at a Cirque show…

Jessica Hird

Meyer UP Juniors fill the back wall of the set and are important for the artists—like the trampoline

act show here—to give them a clear audio reference to orient themselves in space and in the song.

Patrick Burke (left) and Martin de Blois in the FOH position in the Ovo big top.

Cirque du Soleil’s Ovo takes viewers down into a bug’s

world, with circus acts and clowns performing amazing

feats of strength and agility all set on the micro

level of insects. While the onstage antics may be impressive,

the sound gymnastics that need to happen to let a

2500-person audience hear everything are pretty impressive

too. Cirque’s touring big top is an unforgiving environment

for sound and the responsibility for taming it each

night falls to Patrick Burke, Ovo’s head of sound, and Martin

de Blois, assistant head of sound.

“Our main concern every time we step out is to make

sure the coverage is even. So we spend a lot of time focusing,”

says Burke. We’re standing on the Ovo stage after a

performance has finished, the crowd has left and the crew

has cleaned the tent. For the first time all evening the big

top is silent. Burke claps his hands once, and the sound slaps

around the tent, bouncing off the walls and the metal seating

bleachers. “Focus is the most important thing. Because

with the tent, if you don’t focus right, you can get a lot of


EQ is also an issue in the tent. Even with a good focus frequencies

between 200 and 1000 Hz have extra life and can

quickly change the sound. As Burke says, you don’t need a

lot of overpowering decibels, just “the right frequencies in

the right place.”

Finally, Burke and de Blois have to worry about more than

just the audience. The performers rely on music to maintain

their sense of pace and timing. When you’re flying through

the air and need to hit a mark in time with music—you need

to be able to hear the music, and not a muddle of reverb.

And of course Burke and de Blois need to take care of all of

this while mixing a live band. Take all of this into account

and it’s clear the performers aren’t the only ones who have

to walk a high wire act every night.

Setting Up

As might be inferred from Burke’s comments, the audio

rig for Ovo places a premium on precision, control and clarity,

as opposed to overwhelming the audience with a wall

of sound. Two Meyer M’elodie line array hangs, six boxes

in each and angled so they have a slight cross-fire, provide

wide, even coverage for the bulk of the audience. The line

arrays are supplemented by Meyer UPQ and UP Junior

speakers mounted on the tent’s masts.

Surrounds are handled by Meyer M1D’s with six Meyer

700-HP subs handling the low end from their position under

the audience bleachers. All the audio is controlled by a

Meyer LCS Cue Console with six Matrix3 LX-300 Frames and

three Meyer Galileo DSP units. So yes, the show has a lot of

Meyer gear. Which caused a little bit of complications for

Burke—who’s also the FOH mixer—when he started on the

show and was struggling to master the LCS Cue Console.

“During the creation of the show last year, oh yeah, my

brain was fried,” says Burke. “I admit it. There’s so much you

can do with the console. It was so much information, but at

the same time it was so cool.” Creation meant long nights of

learning and programming on the console after long days

working with the artists live.

“We would do the staging during the day, working with

artists and the musicians playing, and then we stayed at

night after everybody left that we could do our stuff. We

played recordings of songs that we had rehearsed during

the day, but this time with the composer there, directing us:

‘Can you turn this down 2 dB? Can you place that chord in

that speaker?’ So they were long days.”


The audience size also affects how Burke and de Blois

capture sound as well. If the house is less than full, the

10 April 2010 •

center section will fill up first, leaving the side sections

empty, letting reverb wash around the sides of the stage.

Unfortunately, that’s where the band and vocalists live, in

two different sections stage left and stage right.

“The musicians over there, the singers, the oboe player,

it’s really hard because the sound gets to the microphone

pretty quickly, there’s so dispersion. There’s no dampening,”

says de Blois. They constantly fight bleed by trying new

mic placement positions and using mics that have variable

settings. For vocalists they’re fond of their Heil mics with a

low cut.

“It has a warm sound and it’s really good,” enthuses

Burke, who wasn’t familiar with the mic before using it on

this show. “I was just like, ‘Hmm, what’s that? Heil mic? We

better try it.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, that’s great!’”

DPA microphones coupled with Sennheiser wireless

transmitters capture sound from the clowns.

But more artists need special care too, which is why

Meyer UP Juniors are placed throughout the back wall of the

stage. They provide fill for artists whose acts are behind the

speaker line, especially the final act, a trampoline number,

with artists bounding through the air and crossing the stage

flipping and twisting in an instant.

“When they are in the air it’s really hard for them to orient

themselves,” says de Blois.

“When they’re jumping around, if they land and it doesn’t

sound right, bad things could happen. They depend a lot on

the music,” adds Burke. “The speakers in the wall are there

for definition.”

Much like the performers, sound in a Cirque can bend

and twist each night, luckily for them Burke and de Blois

are artists, too, and can straighten it all out.



Meyer LCS Cue Console, controlling 6

Matrix3 LX-300 Frames

Meyer Galileo Loudspeaker Management System

TC Electronic TC-6000 multi-effect processor

TC Electronic FireworX multi-effect processor

360 Systems Instant Replay

Yamaha 01V mixing console (used as sidecar)


Yamaha PM5D, 48 inputs

Monitoring system: Sennheiser SR 350 IEM G2 personal

IEM transmitters with EK 300 IEM G2 beltpacks receivers

Wireless microphone system: Sennheiser EM 3732

receivers with SK 5212 beltpack transmitters


Mains: Left, Right Meyer M’elodie Line Arrays,

6 boxes in each

Mast Fill Speakers: Meyer UPQ’s, UP Juniors

Front Fills: Meyer UP Juniors

Surrounds: Meyer M1D’s

Subs: 6 Meyer Concert Series 700-HP Subwoofers

All Photography by Benoit Fontaine

Tent acoustics make it tricky to find the right levels on characters’ mics. • April 2010 11



By Bryan Reesman

Broadway’s #1

Backup Plan

Photographs Courtesy of Merwin Foard

Merwin Foard keeps going on Broadway by

making sure the Broadway show goes on.

Merwin Foard as Javert in the original Broadway run of Les Misérables.

He has had one of the most enduring and consistent

Broadway careers of the last three decades, yet Merwin

Foard may not be the most recognizable face on the

Great White Way. The reason is simple: While Foard has performed

his fair share of supporting roles and ensemble work,

he is now regularly a standby or understudy for leading parts.

He’s the one waiting in wings in case the lead happens to fall ill

or cannot perform for any reason, occasionally balancing that

with ensemble parts. His fourteenth and latest Broadway gig

is as both Nathan Lane and Ron Holgate’s understudy for The

Addams Family, which opens April 8 in New York after an out-oftown

run in Chicago. Foard has become Broadway’s seasoned

back-up man, and he has fashioned a career from this unusual


Throughout the last decade Foard has landed a mixture

of ensemble, understudy and replacement supporting roles

in shows like The Little Mermaid, Assassins, Sweeney Todd and

Kiss Me, Kate. As he will readily attest, it’s a fun life. Prior to The

Addams Family invading the Great White Way, Foard spoke to

Stage Directions about his history, the twists and turns of his

highly unusual career path, juggling professional work with family

time (he is married with two daughters, aged 11 and 16) and

how he has sustained and evolved his craft over three decades.

Stage Directions: You’ve been an ensemble player for many

shows, and you are the main understudy on Broadway


Merwin Foard: I’m like the main second guy on Broadway.

This is the third show I’ve been a standby for which I’m not in

the ensemble. I’m a peripheral person on a contract, but if the

star is down I’ll step in for them. Before Addams Family was the

Sweeney Todd revival where all the actors played instruments,


To read more from Merwin Foard’s

interview, including why he turned

down the opportunity to understudy

Hugh Jackman, visit


and before that was the Kiss

Me, Kate revival, where I stood

by for Brian Stokes Mitchell

and Ron Holgate. Nathan

Lane and Terrence Mann,

who I standby for in Addams

Family, are my 24th and 25th

actors who I have either stood

by for or understudied on


Ultimately, what is that experience like?

It’s a constant state of agita until you really know what

you’re doing. I did get called on to go on for Nathan over the

Thanksgiving weekend in Chicago, when we were still in previews,

and of course whenever a show is brand new all the

rehearsal process is for the cast that will be performing it eight

“When I was in Mermaid I had to

learn how to roller skate on those

heelies. Never did I think that was

something I would have to learn.”

—Merwin Foard

performances a week. During the preview process, when you’re

rehearsing changes to the script and score and the blocking and

choreography every day, again that’s with the primary cast. I

would sit in the audience, make copious notes, erase a lot and

relearn what I’d already learned, so my rehearsals were not

scheduled until after we opened on December 8 in Chicago. But

I got called upon during the Thanksgiving weekend prematurely

because Nathan came down with bronchitis. We all crossed

our fingers, and I hoped that my in-the-living room and in-theshower

homework paid off, and thankfully everything went well.

I did three performances for him over that weekend, and it was

a successful time for me and the cast, and I think for the directors

and producers, too, because it allowed them to see that the

show was going to be fine.

Your career has certainly been keeping you busy, hasn’t it?

It has. It’s been a great life. We’ve been having a good time

with it, and now my oldest daughter feels like she wants to go

into theatre, and we keep telling her not to base her desire to

do it on my seeming ease and success because mine is not a

traditional story. Whenever I go on to talk to kids at schools who

want to major in drama and go on to be a professional actor, I

always tell them that 98% of the actors union, of Actors’ Equity

Association, are regularly unemployed and 2% are regularly

employed. If you were to put that on any other profession, you

12 April 2010 •

Foard met his wife Rebecca Baxter in 1988, playing Curly opposite

her in a production of Oklahoma for Minnesota Opera and Opera


probably wouldn’t want to pursue that

because the odds are drastically against

you succeeding. If you have to do it, then

you have to do it. There’s nothing that can

be done about that.

It’s a tricky business to keep up with

because it’s constantly evolving. What

they’re looking for is always changing. It’s

not something that stays the same. You

have to keep up with what the market

needs, or what it is they’re looking for, so

you’re constantly changing your skill sets.

When I was in Mermaid I had to learn how

to roller skate on those heelies. Never

did I think that was something I would

have to learn. In Sweeney, because all the

actors played instruments, I had to learn

percussion. Here I’m learning how to be a

tango dancer. It’s crazy how it continues

to change with the shows that crop up.

You attended the Manhattan School

Of Music. How valuable was the experience

of the schools you went to? And

what advice would you give to young

students who can’t exactly go to the

school that they want to because of

cost or other considerations? Does a

high-pedigree school really matter?

I think that these days—because we’re

looking into that with our 16-year-old, so

we’re really analyzing what’s out there

that is going to have a department with

what she wants in terms of performing • April 2010 13


Merwin Foard (center) as Richard Henry Lee in the Roundabout Theatre’s 1997 revival of 1776. Also

pictured are Oscar-winner Pat Hingle as Ben Franklin (left) and Brent Spiner (right).

arts that’s also going to be within our budget—kids really should

work with their parents so that they’re not burdened by the

financial aspect of it, with college loans. Don’t keep your fingers

crossed for that scholarship because it may or may not come,

but find schools that are around youthat do offer what you want.

Because of American Idol and all of these performance - based

television shows, kids are wanting more and more to do this,

and because of that schools are creating departments that they

didn’t have before, so it doesn’t have to be NYU or Michigan,

these big performing schools, in order to have that on your

resume and in order to book the job. Now all of these smaller

schools that you might never have heard of are developing

really solid performing arts majors and departments.

Last night we were finding the area schools

that offer that and going through their Web sites.

Thank God for the Internet. Take a virtual tour of

these schools, look at their staff and the depth of

talent that the staff has. Some of these people and

the faculty have amazing resumes.

And you’re right to say that it’s really about the

experience that you make of it. I also tell students

that just because Broadway is here, don’t think

that this is the place you have to go to do live

theatre. There are great pockets of live theatre all

over the country—Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago,

Denver, a lot of towns in Florida, Houston and

Dallas. There are great centers all over the country

that have wonderful theatre.

I think the problem with a lot of kids that graduate

is that they think they have to go to New York because that’s

what’s expected of them. You can really build up a great regional

resume as a stepping-stone to New York. Don’t come up here

and burn yourself out trying to be a waiter or a temp and stealing

time for an audition here or there because you’re not going

to be focused and end up blowing it. Casting directors in New

York have very long memories—it can be a really good thing

and be a really bad thing. If you come up here and start blowing

auditions, they’re going to remember that, and getting that

same audition later on in your career is going to be really hard

to come by. Our 16-year-old is really keen to go into acting, and

we’re really keen to keep her, not in our

backyard, but at least in a state school,

and there are a lot of really great schools

within a five or six-hour drive that have

new but solid theatre programs.

Of all the performers you have

worked with, who has taught you the

most or whom you have learned the

most from?

When I did Mame in ‘83, Angela

Lansbury was starring in it. Watching

someone who in ‘83 wasn’t a spring

chicken—and a lot of reviews said

that—there’s a number in the second

act where Mame dances with all of these

teenagers, and it was a big, choreographed

number. Our choreographer

would say, “Angie, if you want to sit

out, I’ll work with the kids and you just

hang. I’ll bring you back in the next time

we do a full run through.” Her attitude

was, “No. As long as they’re doing it, I

want to be doing it.” You look at someone

who even then had such an amazing

career—and continues to have one

now—you think that’s really something

because she could’ve very graciously

said thank you and sat down with a cup

of tea and waited and watched while

we sweated. If we were working on it,

she wanted to work on it. At my impressionable

22-year-old age, I looked at her

14 April 2010 •

“I also tell students that just

because Broadway is here,

don’t think that this is the

place you have to go to

do live theatre.” —Merwin


Foard (left) starred as Lancelot in a regional production of Camelot with

Terrence Mann (right) as Arthur. Mann, who originated the role of Javert

in Les Misérables on Broadway encouraged Foard to audition for the role.

and thought that was remarkable. She

told me a lot through that one gesture,

just that solid work ethic and not being

afraid of the work and not taking the

easy road out. I have to credit her.

I assume your hope is that you’re

going to take on a lead or major supporting

role in the future?

Absolutely. Everybody wants to play

the part or have the part written with

them in mind, and that’s great. Until

that happens, I’m totally content to be

the backup guy.

Special Section: Plays & Playwriting

Fast Scenes, Slow Heart

Tony Kushner has become one of the preeminent playwrights of our times by charting

the slow, contentious, progressive growth of the human heart. By Katherine Brodsky

Mike Habermann

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Tony Kushner

Left to right: Valeri Mudek and Kate Eifrig in Tiny Kushner at Berkeley Rep

Jim Lichtscheidl in the West Coast premiere of Tiny Kushner

at Berkeley Rep

Tony Kushner is one of the most renowned American playwrights,

having received a slew of prestigious awards,

including the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for Angels in

America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes (1993). The play was

later adapted into an acclaimed HBO miniseries and directed by

Mike Nichols. His diverse body of work includes short plays, movies

and even a musical—Caroline, or Change. He is also known

for his outspoken nature and refusal to shy away from difficult

topics—such as AIDS, the Taliban, and homosexuality and scripture.

His work’s inherent theatricality and its ability to engage an

audience’s emotions, despite how uncomfortable those emotions

might be, have earned him a place as one of America’s greatest


Kushner’s love for the theatre stems from its ability to engage

emotion and the imagination, combined with his sense of political

sensibility and community. “I like the challenge of trying to write

a world, a community, or an event purely out of human direction

and dialogue,” he says. He’s also interested in the dialectical

nature of theatre: the contradiction, debate and argumentation,

all of which are commonly found in his work. This structuring

concept comes from his sense that a serious crisis is happening,

and must be understood to be defused.

“More and more and more as I have gotten older I feel that we

are rounding a corner into something—onto a new highway—

and that you have got to


For the full interview with Tony Kushner,

including a concrete look at his process of

writing, visit


remember different directions.

And I think some of

those directions could—

without any hyperbole—

lead to the end of at least

human life if not all life

on the planet. I feel that

we are at a very significant


Juxtaposition and Politics

Kushner’s storytelling structure can be considered unusual.

He frequently uses shorter episodes in his plays, a departure from

conventional structure.

“I’m interested in stories that have a real stretch and sprawl

and aren’t tightly focused,” he says. “So there is something about

the short scene that has that quality to me where you show quick

snapshots of reality. They are sort of spliced against one another.

It’s the audiences’ job to piece them together into a narrative and

to figure out the way in which the action is continued from scene

to scene. And also to realize the kind of disjuncture and the jumps

and skips and juxtapositions—it feels more real to me. My life feels

chopped up in that way and I think life in general is chopped up in

that way. It’s not one seamless, smoothly flowing narrative.”

A lot of Kushner’s work contains political themes and it’s difficult

to accuse it of being just “pure entertainment.”

“Because there is no such thing as pure entertainment,”

responds Kushner. “I mean, all entertainment has substance

and all substance has politics. So there is no entertainment that

isn’t political. The silliest campiest musical has its politics—it just

depends on what they are. And also how overtly they are worn.”

That said, he doesn’t believe the role of art is merely to deliver

messages—there are more effective ways of doing that. Still,

Kushner has no problem with art having a propagandistic or

educational function. Homebody/Kabul’s purpose, for example,

was to remind the world about Afghanistan and pay attention

to it when nobody was thinking about it at all. “I was happy that

people would learn things about Afghanistan from the play,” says

Kushner, though he did ensure that there was more to the play

than merely tedious education.

“I said this a million times but I think that the purpose of art is

always on some level to preach to the converted,” adds Kushner.

“I think that if you’re a playwright and you write a play that is

intended to lecture people who don’t know as much as you do

and who aren’t converted to your way of thinking about the

16 April 2010 •

Michal Daniel

Special Section: Plays & Playwriting

Jackson M. Hurst (Jackie Thibodeaux), Nikki Renée Daniels (Emmie Thibodeaux) and Zadir King (Joe Thibodeaux) in the

Guthrie Theater production of Caroline, Or Change, at the Guthrie’s 2009 Kushner Celebration

world—you are going to be condescending and boring. You’re

going to bore yourself and that’s how you bore other people.

You say things that you already know and it’s hard to keep awake

while you’re doing that.”

Preaching to the converted, however, isn’t about repeating the

same thing over and over again to those who know it already. “I

think that when you’re a preacher—if you’re a good preacher—

you go in front of your congregation and you want to give them

something to think about.”

In Kushner’s view, although this “congregation” shares a common

faith, it also shares many doubts and questions. The playwright

and audience both walk out on a terrain that perhaps

neither fully understands.

“You are wandering out into the darkness with the

audience, or asking them to join you as you wander

out,” Kushner explains. “All art has one achievable, or

at least partially achievable goal, which is to try and tell

the truth. And if you’re in any way an intelligent, selfaware

person then you know that the hardest thing to

get around in telling the truth is not exterior censorship.

For most of us, the real censor, the real trickster, the real

impulse to lie or to hide the truth and to be afraid to

seek the truth is what we do to ourselves.”

Kushner believes it is this communal experience of

pursuing the truth and the meaning of life that brings

people to the theatre. “As long as you’re really struggling

to break through to some kind of understanding

you’re doing your job as an artist,” says Kushner, adding,

“Don’t make it easy on yourself, and don’t be boring.”

Transformation of the Heart

Throughout Kushner’s work, there are certain themes that

seem to reappear. The relationship between theory and action

appears to be central to most his writing. How does transformation

happen in people? What is the relationship between the

world outside and the world within? What is the role of a progressive

person in the world?

“The human heart is a progressive thing. I believe that it is also

enormously slow. And cautious. And in some ways conservative in

the sense that it doesn’t like to let go of what it loves. It can’t let go

18 April 2010 •

that easily—or necessarily bravely. There is a contradiction

in people that makes change both on the inside and

on the outside enormously hard. And I think those are

two big themes in my work.”

Lately, Kushner has been drawn into the world of

film, most recently collaborating on the screenplay for

Steven Spielberg’s Munich with Eric Roth, earning him

an Academy Award nomination. He loved working with

Spielberg so much that he is now working on a screenplay

about Abraham Lincoln for him. It is a rewarding

experience, but is also perhaps “the hardest thing” he

had ever had to do.

“And it pays really well,” he laughs. Even with highly

successful musicals like his Caroline, or Change, by the

time the royalties are split with all involved parties, the

checks shrink significantly.

Despite it’s lack of a rich paycheck, though, Kushner

still loves the process of theatre. Although movies are

seen by millions of people, he believes plays tend to stay

out in the world and get reinvented over and over. As an example

he offer his own Angels in America, which has been running for

nearly 20 years, all over the world.

When it comes to success, Kushner has some advice: “Your

only hope at succeeding, I think, is to not lie. It’s hardest to be

brave and honest. And not try and trick people. Sometimes that

is rewarded. Sometimes it’s punished... You have to be willing

to make a fool of yourself in public. If you’re going to perform

in public—and playwriting, any writing that is published, that is

Michael Esper (Eli Wolcott) and Stephen Spinella (Pier Luigi Marcantonio [Pill]) in the world premiere of The Intelligent

Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures last spring at the Guthrie Theater.

produced, that is performed is an act of self-exposure—you have

got to be comfortable with it.”

Which is not to say Kushner rushes into that exposure. Though

he is currently working on a rewrite for his new play, a new musical

and two films at the same time—he hedges when discussing

whether he’ll meet the deadlines necessary to place the projects

in the public view.

“Well, I didn’t say I was going to meet any deadlines,” laughs

Kushner, “Deadlines are...kind of interesting—It will be ready

when it’s ready.”

Michal Daniel • April 2010 19

Special Section: Plays & Playwriting

The Ultimate Play Publication Primer

Your step-by-step guide to successfully seeing your work in print

By Lisa Mulcahy

Think you’ve written the next God Of Carnage—but have no

clue about how to get it published? You’re not alone. Even

the most talented, experienced playwrights need to tread

carefully when it comes to issues like representation, marketing,

publisher evaluation, contracts, copyright and payment specifics.

Here’s SD’s no-nonsense, common sense playbook for getting the

exposure—and compensation—your work deserves.

Darren Goldstein and Jennifer Mudge in the Atlantic

Theater Company 2009 production of OOHRAH! by

Bekah Brunstetter, directed by Evan Cabnet.

Tae Kwon

To Agent or Not To Agent?

For many new playwrights, the question of utilizing an agent

to assist in getting published is a true catch-22; after all, don’t you

need to already be published to get an agent? Not necessarily—

many highly esteemed publishers are smartly focused on quality

over connections.

“In terms of experience and credentials, you do not have to

be a professional playwright to be published,” says Abbie Van

Nostrand, vice president of Samuel French, Inc. in New York

City. Although Samuel French does prefer to work with represented/solicited

submissions, they make a point of being open to

unagented writers, as long as they display professional attitude.

“In part, publishing is about forming relationships; we want to

know that you are going to be wiling to work with us throughout

the publication and beyond, in term of promoting your piece,”

Van Nostrand elaborates.

The pros to submitting unrepresented work include the fact

that you save the time and effort it takes to impress an agent, first

and foremost, not to mention money when your work is picked

up for publication (a reputable agent will take approximately

10% of all your payments, fees and future royalties). If you go it

alone, you’ll most likely be untested when it comes to dealing

with tricky contractual and creative issues. In addition, having a

well-respected agent sends the definitive message that you know

what you’re doing.

“If a playwright is new, he or she should focus on craft. That

playwright should be reading lots of plays and studying, not be

focused on publication,” says Jason Aaron Goldberg, president of

Original Works Publishing in Los Angeles. Your best move, then?

Be honest with yourself. Are you seasoned and knowledgeable

enough to handle negotiations for your work on your own? Is

your work in the absolute best shape it can be? If the answers to

these questions are no, or even maybe, take a step back, perfect

your product, and then seek out the representation you probably

do really need before approaching any publisher.

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

When you ultimately send your work to an agent or publisher,

it’s crucial to avoid sloppy mistakes. “The best advice I can give a

playwright when submitting to any organization is follow directions!”

stresses Goldberg. “Submission guidelines are there for a

reason. You need to take the time and read over those guidelines

and see what the company wants. The number one rule for all

Original Works Publishing submissions is that the play has been

previously produced—I can’t tell you how many subs we get that

are unproduced.”

So yes, you need to scrupulously research a publisher’s M.O.,

top to bottom. “Do your

homework—see what

kind of material it’s known

for,” Goldberg continues.

“See what is required in

a submission. Then, be

professional, and write a

short cover letter so we

know your intentions— it

is troubling when you get

a blank email with attachments.

I want to see a

one-paragraph synopsis

that covers the basic story

and theme—make me

want to read it. I do not like full-page or multiple-page synopses

that cover every aspect of the play. Why do I need to read the play

if you give me all that? Also, I need complete contact information,

a playwright bio or resume, and production history for the submitted

work, ideally with reviews.”

Speaking of that resume, how do you show yourself—and

your work—off to best advantage? “Ideally, an author’s resume

would reflect multiple productions with a range of groups and

theatres, as well as give information about awards and competitions,

workshops and readings, writers’ retreats and any other

kind of writing you do,” says Van Nostrand. “Also, it is important

to be clear about the play’s future. Are you still trying to actively

develop or produce the play? Are there other pending production

inquiries on the piece? Letting us know that this play is still active

will give us insight as to how it will read to potential audiences.”

Keeping aware of the latest technological updates in the

publishing world can also give you a leg up. “In efforts to increase

our efficiency and respond to playwrights as soon as possible, we

are using an online query format for general submissions that is

available through our website,” says Van Nostrand. “If you submit

online, make sure your attachments are clearly labeled with the

title of the play and your last name.” Check with any organization

before you submit by snail mail; although most publishers prefer

20 April 2010 •

PDFs or Word docs, most will still accept hard copies, but you

should know for sure.

Posing The Proper Points

Congrats—a publisher’s read your submission and declared

that your work is perfect for them. Yet is this publisher perfect for

you? Put its potential to the test by asking the following essential


How can your demographic serve my work?

“We serve a wide market of theatre producers from the small

amateur school group to large professional theatres,” says Van

Nostrand. “Each group has a different set of criteria they use when

selecting a play, and we work to develop

a catalogue of plays that serve this variety

of producing groups.” Make sure your

publisher has this kind of diverse audience


How much money am I going to make,

and on what schedule?

“It is okay to inquire about royalties,”

says Goldberg. “Playwrights should be as

informed as possible.” A quality publisher

will never have a problem outlining their

policies on advances, compensation for

additional writing and royalty specifics,

and should be fair when it comes to negotiating

financial points.

What restrictions will be built into my


Find out your potential publisher’s

position on further submissions of your

work for production. Will inclusion in a

catalogue mean you can no longer send

the play out on your own from a legal

perspective? If you become agented, will

your agent be allowed to solicit productions

on your behalf? Some publishers

encourage their writers to send out their

plays on their own to theatres, which

can be good, since it gives the writer a

great deal of control over the play’s future

trajectory. If your publisher wants you

to submit on your own, though, ask to

get copies of the published play submitted

to you at cost, to save out-of-pocket


What circumstances will allow my work

to revert to me?

Some publishing deals demand your

work be contracted for perpetuity; others

allow for mutual termination; still others

require that the publisher will receive a

cut of all future profits should you and the

company part ways. Understand, and do,

what is comfortable for you.

“It is important to be clear about

the play’s future. Are you still trying

to actively develop or produce

the play? Are there other pending

production inquiries on the

piece?” — Abbie Van Nostrand

Should You Sign On The Dotted Line?

Satisfied with the offer a publisher

makes you? Ask for a contract, and read it

over carefully with an attorney (if you can’t

afford one, an organization like Volunteer • April 2010 21

Special Section: Plays & Playwriting

“Plays are not like novels or essays—they

are pieces of art intended for production.”

—Jason Aaron Goldberg

A production still from Furious theatre Company's

production of Alex Jones’ Canned Peaches in Syrup,

published by Original Works.

Lawyers For The Arts can help). Keep

your eyes peeled for any clauses that

allow the publisher to creatively edit

your work—you should always retain

that right.

“Plays are not like novels or essays—

they are pieces of art intended for production,”

says Goldberg. “By the time

you seek publication, the work should

be finished. It should already have gone

through development, and any edits

should have been made there.” Expect,

though, to work with your publisher on

details like copyediting.

“The editing process is more about

formatting scripts into book form, making

sure the author’s vision is represented

clearly, and gathering the components

necessary to make a completed

acting edition—production information,

set plots, character information,”

explains Van Nostrand.

Never assign your play’s copyright

to a publisher! “There should be no

copyright issues with your play,” says

Goldberg. “This is part of our contract.” If

you’ve written an adaptation or translation,

obtain all permissions for use of the

text before approaching any publisher

in the first place. Got all these ducks in

a row? Now listen to your gut: are you

truly happy with what this publisher is

offering you? If you have even the smallest

reservation, bring it up. Bottom line:

your work is too valuable to risk. Have

foresight about your future. A publishing

deal can last a very long time, and

both you and your publisher should

want to maximize its potential. As

Goldberg smartly concludes: “The best

relationships I have are with playwrights

who understand that publication is simply

the beginning of the next phase of

the play’s life.”

22 April 2010 •

Plays & Musicals



P.O. Box 577676

Chicago, IL 60657

P: 773-404-8016

W: www.americanplay

Artage Publications;

The Senior Theatre

Resource Center

P.O. Box 19955

Portland, OR 97280

P: 800-858-4998

W: www.seniortheatre.


Broadway Play

Publishing Inc.

56 E. 81st St.

New York, NY 10028

P: 212-772-8334

W: www.broadwayplay

Centerstage Press

P.O. Box 36688

Phoenix, AZ 85067

P: 602-242-1123



Dramatists Play

Service, Inc.

440 Park Ave. South

New York, NY 10016

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Encore Performance


P.O. Box 14367

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Heinemann Drama

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Heuer Publishing Llc.

P.O. Box 248

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L.E. Clark Publications

P.O. Box 246

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J. Gordon Shillingford

Publishing & Scirocco


Box 86

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Josef Weinberger, Ltd.

12-14 Mortimer St.

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KMR Scripts

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Maverick Musicals

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Music Theatre


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Plays And Musicals

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Playwrights Canada


215 Spadina Ave.

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Popular Play Service

P.O. Box 3365

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Samuel French, Inc.

45 W. 25th St.

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Spotlight Musicals

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Stage Kids The Edutainment


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Tams-Witmark Music

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The Rodgers & Hammerstein


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W: www.theatrefolk.

com • April 2010 23

Show Biz


By Tim Cusack

Not the Same Old

Every year American Theatre magazine compiles its Top-10 list of

the most frequently performed plays for the current producing

season at Theatre Communication Group’s constituent members

across the country. These data always provide a fascinating

snapshot of the collective mindset of decision makers at the nation’s

established not-for-profits. For example, between 2006-2010 John

Patrick Shanley was the undisputed King of the Playwriting Hill, with

close to 50 productions of Doubt going up during that time. David

Lindsey Abaire was second with 33 productions of Rabbit Hole, and

while none of her individual plays racked up anywhere near those

numbers, Sarah Ruhl ruled L.O.R.T. She made the list each of the past

three years with a total of 31 productions of three plays. And then

there’s Tennessee Williams—apparently the Wingfields of St. Louis

haven’t smashed that crystal unicorn for the last time just yet, as The

Glass Menagerie has received nearly 20 productions since 2006.

While in some respects the lemming-like mind-meld of the

administrators at our nation’s larger theatres is deeply depressing

(although, I suspect, the fortunate few playwrights and their agents

feel differently), for indy theatre producers, this cookie-cutter programming

represents an opportunity to differentiate ourselves from

our big brothers and sisters.

One dependable source for the intrepid producer to find interesting,

quality new work that nobody else in town (or likely your region)

is doing is the Plays and Playwrights anthology, published annually

since 2000 by The New York Theatre Experience. This month the

organization is coming out with the 2010 edition, and to mark the

occasion, I sat down to chat with editor Martin Denton.

What led you to want to take on this kind of project, Martin?

The real story is that we saw a show called Are We There Yet?

written by Garth Wingfield and produced by a company called New

World Stages. As we were leaving, I said to my mother Rochelle, “That

was a really great play, and someone ought to publish it because if

Leaning on others to help

find the good new work.

no one does, it’s going to disappear after 16 performances, and no

one will ever know it happened.”

What was it about that particular play that gave you the idea

for the book?

It’s a lovely play about a woman who’s in her early thirties who

finds out she has breast cancer. It’s a very funny play, not a sad play.

Very heartfelt with beautiful characters you really like, and there’s

wisdom in it. So at the end of the year, I said to Rochelle, “Remember

when I said someone ought to publish that play? We should publish

a book of plays.” And instead of saying the sensible thing like, “Why?

Are you crazy? We’ve never published anything before!” She said,

“Okay.” So we did, without having any idea how to do that. And the

impetus, besides this particular play, was that I knew that we knew

enough plays at that point that deserved to be in this book, and we

were starting to know some playwrights and how to get to them. But

beyond that was the fact that in 1999, the only books featuring new

American plays were those written by famous people. It turned out

to be very successful for what it was. And every play in the anthology

had at least one—and some many—subsequent productions

because of it.

What playwrights/companies will be included in the 2010


This year we’re publishing The Talking Band for the first time—

Flip Side by Ellen Maddow. We put it on the list sort of whimsically,

and then we were going through it and saying “Well, surely she’s

been published, and so we can cross this off,” but we researched

and checked, and she’s NEVER been published. Brian Parks [Arts

and Culture Editor at The Village Voice] is another person who’s surprisingly

never been published. His play The Invitation is probably

the best thing he’s ever written. It’s about the greed that caused

the recent economic collapse, except it premiered in September

‘08, so it was very prescient. Then we’ve

got Nat Cassidy’s play Any Day Now, which

is a lighthearted, three-act family dramacomedy

like August: Osage County, only

the characters are zombies. And we have

Gyda Arber’s Suspicious Package, an interactive

play on the iPod. It’s the most interesting

use of this technology I’ve seen in the theatre.

What other resources would you recommend

to producers seeking new work?

There are now many more collections

than when we started. Smith & Kraus has

gotten much more regular with its New

Playwrights: The Best Plays of a year series.

Then there’s Eric Lane, Artistic Director

of Orange Thoughts Productions and a

playwright himself who has edited several

anthologies for Random House [e.g., Laugh

Lines, Leading Women and Take Ten: New

10-Minute Plays —ed.]. And the New York

Theater Review is also a dependable annual

compilation of alternative play scripts. All

of these books can be found on Amazon.


24 April 2010 •

By Stephan Peithman


The How

and Why of It

Books that provide

insight into making theatre better

Off the Shelf

Acting teacher Sam Kogan once asked, “How can actors

understand a character if they do not understand

themselves?” It was a rhetorical question, but in The

Science of Acting (Why You Think The Way You Do and

How To Change It), Kogan follows up on it by identifying the

relationship between neuroscience, psychology and acting

to help actors identify “invisible” thoughts that drive their

own lives, as well as the characters they portray on stage.

Kogan died in 2004, and this thought-provoking new book

was completed by his daughter, Helen Kogan, chair of the

Academy of the Science of Acting and Directing, which her

father founded. [$30.95, Routledge]

The stage an actor performs on is the focus of How to

Start Your Own Theater Company, but instead of a simplistic

how-to approach, author Reginald Nelson puts the whole

thing into context of the first three seasons of Chicago’s

award-winning Congo Square Theatre. As his tale unfolds,

we see how seemingly mundane issues (rent, parking, safety,

determining tax status and calculating budgets and finding

flexible day jobs), reflect the daily realities of small nonprofit

theatre companies. Nelson covers the big topics, too, like

finding a space, choosing plays, rights and royalties and

fundraising, but he also provides important insight into

working with underserved communities. In short, he packs a

great deal into the book’s 179 pages, but does not pretend

to answer every question, since the answers may depend on

the start-up company’s particular situation. What he does do,

in highly readable and informative fashion, is make the reader

aware of what to expect, what questions to ask, and where to

get the answers. [$16.95, Chicago Review Press]

Nonprofit organizations “are not victims of economics,”

writes author Susan U. Raymond. “They are part of the

nation’s economic structure. They are (or ought to be) masters

of their own destiny—vibrant economic actors with a

wide range of revenue options and strategies.” That’s the

central point of her book, Nonprofit Finance for Hard Times:

Leadership Strategies When Economies Falter. She spends

a great deal of time in an explanation of the economic system

in modern-day America, and how the nonprofit sector fits

into it. It’s clear she believes that providing tips and how-to’s

is meaningless without this background—and so not until

chapters 8-10 does she addresses specific financial strategies

for coping with, or recovering from, economic hard times. A

patient reader will be rewarded, however, since understanding

the big picture helps set the path a particular nonprofit

should take. As Raymond points out, it’s not a matter of just

hanging on for the white-knuckle ride, but planning the best

strategy to survive and succeed. [$45, Jossey-Bass]

The Jossey-Bass Reader on Nonprofit and Public

Leadership gathers a collection of writings on leadership

and management in the public and nonprofit sectors, including

previously published essays, articles and extracts from

books and periodicals that have been selected by author

and Professor James L. Perry. Topics include principles and

practices of leadership, organizational change, corporate

culture, communication, efficiency, ethics, understanding

leadership roles in the nonprofit world, “founder vs. executive

director” relationships, board leadership, alternative and collaborative

leadership, strategic management, sustainability

and the future of leadership. The book’s diversity of subject

matter and vantage points makes it a worthwhile read. [$38,


Philanthropy in a Flat World: Inspiration through

Globalization, by Jon Duschinsky, is aimed at helping fundraisers

and nonprofit managers become more flexible, adaptable,

and international in approach. Competing successfully

in today’s “borderless world” is a fairly narrow topic of interest,

since not many theatre companies work with donors

from countries other than their own. But for those who do,

Duschinsky provides many eye-opening moments, including

his belief that “Your aim is quantum fundraising, where

you throw the rule book away and put absolute faith in your

vision for change. Lack of self-confidence has no place in

the fundraising world of tomorrow. The stakes are too high.”

[$27.95, Jossey-Bass]

While Theaters 2: Partnerships in Facility Use, Operations

and Management is designed like an art book, the real art

here is in its examination of the growing number of partnerships

between institutions, municipalities, agencies and arts

organizations as principal facility owners and managers.

The visual focus is architectural, while chapters detail the

various levels of collaboration necessary to create distinctive

and practical theatre spaces in today’s economy—including

defining common goals among various user groups,

reconciling budgets and program activities, and delivering

a completed multipurpose building. Detailed case studies

of 42 public and private partnerships include the Hylton

Performing Arts Center in historic Manassas, Virginia; the

Oslo Opera House; Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall; the

Margot and Bill Winspeare Opera House in Dallas, Texas; and

the Las Cruces Performing Arts Center at New Mexico State

University. Project summaries at the end of the book include

facility descriptions, locations, and participating design teams

for each project. Combining plenty of solid information with

informative photos and drawings, this is outstanding work.

[$75, Images Publishing] • April 2010 25

In the Greenroom

Continued from page 6

industry news

In Brief…

Two-time Academy Award-winner Albert Wolsky will

receive the 2010 TDF/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement

Award for costume design, and Tony Award-winning scenic

designer and educator Ming Cho Lee will receive the TDF/

Irene Sharaff Robert L.B. Tobin Award for Sustained Excellence

in Theatrical Design. Costume designer Alejo Vietti will receive

the TDF/Irene Sharaff Young Master Award, and famed theatre

craftsman/designer John David Ridge will receive the TDF/

Irene Sharaff Artisan Award…New York’s Summer Play Festival

selected playwright Alena Smith as their representative playwright

for the Voices of Change Festival in Bielefeld, Germany…

Off-Broadway’s 11-time Obie Award-winning Soho Rep has

received a grant in the amount of $200,000 from The Andrew

W. Mellon Foundation to help support the work of the company

over the next several seasons...The Francesca Ronnie Primus

Foundation and the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)

have awarded playwright Jamie Pachino of Los Angeles the

2009 Francesca Primus Prize for her play Splitting Infinity, worth

$10,000… Marin Theatre Company has awarded their 2010 Sky

Cooper New American Play Prize to Bill Cain for 9 Circles. Cain

will receive a $10,000 award accompanied by a world premiere

production of 9 Circles in the Lieberman Theatre as part of MTC’s

2010–11 season. Also, MTC has given their 2010 David Calicchio

Emerging American Playwright Prize to Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig

for Lidless. She will receive $2,500 and Lidless will be included in

MTC’s New Works series in the 2010–11 season… Julia Cho won

the 2010 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, given annually to women

playwrights, for her play The Language Archive.

DePaul University Expands Theatre Wigs

And Hair Certificate Program

DePaul University Continuing and Professional Education will

expand its distinctive Wigs and Hair Chicago program this June.

The only existing certificate program focused on teaching students

to design, create and maintain stage hair will now feature

a course on the construction and maintenance of facial hair. The

new course complements Wigs and Hair Chicago’s two existing

five-day certificate programs.

The suite of programs now consists of: Wigs and Hair Dressing

and Maintenance Program; Wigs and Hair Production I Certificate

Program; Wigs and Hair Production II Certificate Program. Students

earn a Certificate of Professional Achievement from DePaul upon

completion of each program.

NEA Names Ralph Remington New

Director of Theatre and Musical Theatre

Ralph Remington has joined the National Endowment for the

Arts as the director of theatre and musical theatre. Most recently,

Remington was a city council member of the City of Minneapolis,

representing Ward 10 from 2006 through 2009. Prior to that

public service, Mr. Remington worked as artistic associate with

Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.; producing artistic director and

founder of the Pillsbury House Theatre in Minneapolis; and as

an actor with the Guthrie Theater and Illusion Theatre, both of

Minneapolis. At the NEA, he will manage the NEA’s grantmaking

for theatre and musical theatre, as well as develop partnerships

to advance the theatre field as a whole, and lead large-scale theatre

projects such as the NEA’s New Play Development Program.

changing roles

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Answer Box


By Jacob Coakley

The Texture

of Ghosts

Christopher Ash

Nick Keenan uses sound to change the

physics of a space, or play.

Christopher Ash

Nick Keenan placed a speaker in a table to mimic the sound of props in New Leaf Theater’s production

of A.R. Gurney’s The Dining Room.

Nick Keenan wanted his sound design for New Leaf Theater’s production of The Dining

Room to create a space that belonged to ghosts.

Nick Keenan is a Chicago-based sound designer who has

worked with a lot of storefront theatres (he’s Artist in

Residence at Chicago’s New Leaf Theatre, not to mention

a multitude of designer credits across town) and larger ones

as well (he’s sound op at the Goodman Theatre). You can check

out his demo reel at He also teaches and is on

the faculty of Northwestern University’s “Cherub” program for

high school theatre students. But he’s not done yet—in addition

to his sound work he’s also a bit of a Web ninja, doing web

development projects for and the Chicago

Theater Database and has his own blog (TheaterfortheFuture.

com) where he discusses new directions in theatre and has been

called “one of the smartest voices in the theatrosphere” by Time

Out Chicago. He stopped by the chat room on

February 24 to talk about his approach to sound and theatre,

excerpts of which are reprinted below.

Jacob Coakley: Talk about what you mean by “texture”

for non-musical theatre. What is that exactly?

Scene sting music, underscore during dramatic

parts? Does it resolve itself differently for each


Nick Keenan: When I’m designing a system I’m

thinking about the acoustics of the space, and how

that translates into the acoustics of the world of the

play. The texture of sound can be used to make

spaces feel different than they are, just as light

changes the way that static objects are shaped. And even if I’m

not using music in a show, I may change the way a room ‘feels”

by adding rumbles, tones, dancing notes, environmental scoring—texture.

Nick Keenan: An example, actually. You guys know

A.R. Gurney’s play The Dining Room? Basically a

bunch of families in different decades overlapping

their lives in the same environment: the dining

room. You’ll be in the ‘40s and then teens from the

‘80s will run through.

Nick Keenan: We cut all the props in a production

we did of that at New Leaf Theater, and I fired a

special practical speaker into the dining room table.

The actors would move their hand, and you would

hear them pick up and polish a fork or fold a newspaper,

but you wouldn’t see it happen. The space became the

home of ghosts. It all comes from thinking about the acoustic

“physics” of the world of the play.

Justin Argenio: How do you cope with the integrity

of the designer vs. what the director, artistic director,

producer wants? Especially if you disagree.

Nick Keenan: It depends on what I can get away

with. Which I

think is true of all

of us. It’s a game

of “yes and.” If you

as a designer cut off someone

else’s process with an inflexible

“no” you’re cutting off the

creative flow in the room.

That’s poisonous.


To read a transcript of the entire chat

session, head over to www.theatreface.

com/nickkeenan. To join in other chats,

head over to

28 April 2010 •

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